This Debate Has No Title: Solving the self-referential paradox

New from the The Institute of Art and Ideas. Paradoxes of self-reference are found in mathematics, literature and philosophy from the Greeks to Derrida. Can we ever solve them? And do we need to? Literary critic Patricia Waugh, mathematician Peter Cameron and philosopher Hilary Lawson and  tackle the problem here:


A Spectacular Spring? Wait and see…

"As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door"... Gustave Doré's 'The Raven'

Conservationists are predicting that after a long, cold winter the UK is going to see the most spectacular Spring in years. Why? This year’s winter seems to have gone on longer than most, which has been reflected in the belated arrival of Spring blooms and other wildlife (mothers across the country may have been disappointed by the shortage of daffodils on March 14th, for instance). The late arrival of Spring, though, may be a blessing, or so suggests Matthew Oates of the National Trust:

“We’ve effectively gone from late winter straight into early summer in recent years. One of the problems with early, rushed springs is the flowers and butterflies then get clobbered by foul and abusive [spring] weather. A cold winter slows everything down. And a late spring is more safe and secure. It gives us an opportunity to appreciate spring, rather than having to try to catch a glimpse of it in one weekend.”

Let’s hope so. But we in the UK are no doubt by now sceptical of future natural, environmental and meteorological forecasts (‘Barbeque Summer’, anyone?)

Perhaps. However, maybe philosophy can come to the aid of meteorologists and naturalists beleaguered by the danger of making predictions. Continue reading “A Spectacular Spring? Wait and see…”

Boundaries and Control

You probably know that traveling back in time to kill your grandfather is not only unethical, it’s also prohibited by the laws of nature.  This isn’t because the laws prohibit travel to the past (in fact, there are several speculative models of current physics that allow for it) but because killing someone who fathered your father means you aren’t born (and thus not in a position to travel back in time and do the dirty deed).  What you may not know is why this restriction on your action seems especially onerous.  In a recent Discover article, CalTech physicist Sean Carroll argues that the difference can be explained by an appeal to boundary conditions.

Why should boundary conditions matter?  The clearest answer is provided by Continue reading “Boundaries and Control”

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